Power Rankings

NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

The Dynamic Duo Returns

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Haven’t we seen this movie before? Summer turns to fall and the 48 team shifts into another gear that no one else has, and that it seemed to be hiding all along.

2. Carl Edwards  Edwards’ tough-it-out third- and fifth-place finishes the last two weeks are the type of performances that championships are made of. Dare we call them “Johnson-esque?”

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<p> Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus lead the 48 team back into the title hunt — and to the top of Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings — after a dominating win in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.</p>
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Horsepower Rankings

Chase field narrows after Monster weekend at Dover

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Attention race fans: Do not count Jimmie Johnson out of the Chase until he is mathematically eliminated (which probably will not happen). Thank you. That is all.

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<p> Jimmie Johnson sits atop Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

6. Kevin Harvick  Clinging to the points lead thanks to his four regular season wins and top-12 finishes. Still, Harvick seems to be lacking some of the mojo that got him here. Maybe he should pick a fight with Kyle Busch.

7. Matt Kenseth  Running out of fuel in the Chase’s first race at Chicago may come back to haunt Kenseth, who had one of the best cars there. The result was a 21st, with fifth- and sixth-place runs since.

8. Kurt Busch   Busch throws his hat back into the championship hunt with an impressive — and somewhat unexpected — win in Dover over Johnson, who he described as his “arch-nemesis.”

9. Kyle Busch  A sixth at Dover helped his cause after subpar 22nd- and 11th-place showings. Leading laps is Kyle’s calling card, but he hasn’t done that since the onset of the Chase.

10. Ryan Newman   There’s quite a gap between ninth and 10th on the list. Newman is sliding down the rankings thanks to 25th- and 23rd-place runs which have deep-sixed his Chase chances.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  That third-place run to open the Chase is proving to be the fuel-mileage fluke we believed it to be.

12. Clint Bowyer  If he expects to run better at Michael Waltrip Racing next season he needs to think again.

13. AJ Allmendinger  Back to his seventh- to 12th-place ways after a couple of down weeks.

14. Denny Hamlin  Averaged an eighth-place finish in the three races prior to the Chase. Averaging a 26th-place finish in it.

15. Greg Biffle   If a non-Chaser is to win a Chase race, Biffle may be that guy at Kansas.

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Smoke rises as Chase heats up

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Tony Stewart  Difficult to place him anywhere else. Smoke has two consecutive wins and an average finish of fourth over the last four weeks. Lean & mean after shedding the dead weight.

2. Jeff Gordon  Probably had the best car in New Hampshire, but the fuel calculations were off. That most likely cost him six valuable championship points, which could come back to bite.

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<p> Tony Stewart leads Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings for the first time this season after his second straight win in NASCAR's Chase for the Championship.</p>

9. Ryan Newman  Led the first 62 laps after sitting on the pole in Loudon, but a flat tire with five laps to go was a killer. This team still has the potential to rebound, but how far is unclear.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Another victim of tire issues, Junior blew one out while running sixth with 71 laps remaining. Even when this bunch runs well, they can’t seem to catch a break.

11. Kurt Busch  Busch’s day in Loudon started bad and stayed that way.

12. Clint Bowyer  A near-win with Harvick’s cast-away’d pit crew had to feel like a moral victory.

13. Mark Martin  Led 46 laps after gaining track position, but faded to 24th in a frustrating ending.

14. Denny Hamlin  Three laps to go. Running sixth. Out of fuel. Such is the No. 11 team’s season.

15. David Ragan  Has quietly pieced together three consecutive runs of 11th or better.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr.
 

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

NASCAR's northern Chase swing in full effect

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Looked like the typical Chase race for Johnson ... until he was bit by the fuel bug. Still, how many teams do you know can run out of fuel on the final lap and still finish 10th?

2. Kevin Harvick  True to form, “The Closer” was running down Tony Stewart in the closing laps at Chicago. However, this time he came up short. Still your championship leader, though.

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<p> Tony Stewart makes a move up Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings after an impressive Chase-opening win in the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.</p>

8. Matt Kenseth  Kenseth was Stewart’s main competition until — yes, you guessed it — the tank ran dry. And a little “help” from Travis Kvapil was salt in the wound.

9. Kyle Busch  Busch seemed to have a decent car in Chicago, but could never gain the track position he needed to run up front. Oh yeah, he ran out of gas, too.

10. Kurt Busch  Kurt says he’s in Jimmie Johnson’s head, but after listening to him rant to his team on the radio, I think Kurt’s pit crew is in Kurt’s head.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Was a legit top-10 car at race’s end. That everyone ran out of fuel in front of him was icing on the cake.

12. Denny Hamlin  What a difference a year makes.

13. Mark Martin  13th on back in the Horsepower Rankings is more or less irrelevant … much like on the Cup circuit!

14. AJ Allmendinger  It wasn’t pretty at Chicago, but credit AJ for a month of solid runs.

15. Clint Bowyer  Returning this week to New Hampshire. Also known to Bowyer as “the scene of the crime.”

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr.

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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Horsepower Rankings

NASCAR circuit "rips" into Chase for the Championship

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jeff Gordon  The four-time champ has averaged a 3.25-place finish over the last month. Gordon is looking like the “Wonderboy” of old at just the right time.

2. Jimmie Johnson  It looks as if his biggest threat in the Chase may come from within — as in within Hendrick Motorsports in the form of the aforementioned Gordon. Haven’t we seen this movie before?

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<p> Two of NASCAR's all-time greats — Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson — lead the list in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

8. Ryan Newman  Newman continues to throw top 10s on the board — he was eighth at Richmond — but he must avoid the hiccup his team seems to have once every month if a title is to be won.

9. Kurt Busch  When you finish in the top 5 but receive more pub for your post-race antics, you know you’ve got some explaining and/or apologizing to do. When the cameras are on, of course.

10. Tony Stewart  Tony’s antics came on Friday and, like Busch, were because of a confrontation with reporters. When are these guys going to learn that life can be a lot easier when they’re on friendly terms with the media?

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Somehow rebounded from a number of issues at RIR and snuck in the Chase. Sorry Junior Nation, but don’t expect much more.

12. Denny Hamlin  Led zero laps and finished ninth at one of his favorite tracks. That’s not a great sign.

13. AJ Allmendinger  AJ’s top-12 streak has hit five races in a row and he’s 13th in points. Not bad, young man.

14. Mark Martin  There’s still a little gas left in the tank, as Martin’s 10th-place finish in Richmond proved. Not bad, old man.

15. Jamie McMurray  This week will mark the start of “R&D Season” for McMurray and the Ganassi gang.

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, David Ragan

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Mustache and mullet jokes need not apply

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Jimmie Johnson  Two runner-up finishes in the last three races but no wins since Talladega in April. It’s almost Chase time, though, and Johnson finds himself leading the pack (albeit in a controlled four-wheel drift) as September begins. Surprise, surprise.

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<p> Tropical Depression Lee, meet Jeff Gordon. Gordon won the day in Atlanta, but Jimmie Johnson — who finished second in a four-wheel drift — still sits atop Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

9. Kurt Busch  Like the little girl with the curl, Kurt can be very, very good or very, very bad. Problem is, that doesn’t translate into Chase success.

10. Kevin Harvick  After back-to-back 22nd-place finishes, Harvick and the boys rebound with a respectable seventh at AMS. Still, something is amiss here.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  He’ll probably make the Chase, but at this rate that’s about all you can expect.

12. Tony Stewart  Finally broke out of a nasty slump with a big third-place showing at Atlanta. More should follow. Should.

13. Martin Truex Jr.   He keeps showing flashes of brilliance but just can’t finish like the big boys.

14. AJ Allmendinger  Somehow ranks 13th in the standings. Probably because that’s about where he finishes each week.

15. Clint Bowyer  If you were at work, YouTube his comments about Juan Pablo Montoya. Classic.

Just off the lead pack: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Paul Menard

 

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Kyle "The Surgeon" Busch speeding away from the competition

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Kyle Busch  “The Surgeon” begins to pull away … kind of like he’s going 128 mph and the rest of the field is doing the 45 mph speed limit.

2. Jimmie Johnson  To those harping about how Johnson is ripe for the taking, take notice that he has only six finishes worse than 11th (in 23 races) this year and sits second in the point standings. Blue 48, prepare to make your Chase run.

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<p> Kyle Busch begins to pull away from Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the field in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

7. Ryan Newman Newman is very quietly putting together a solid season. He’s no Kyle Busch, but if things continue along the current path, he could make a respectable showing in the championship standings.

8. Kevin Harvick Harvick has been awful quiet lately. Too quiet, in fact. Makes me wish for the days of his grandstanding with Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Rudd, Carl Edwards ... am I leaving anyone out?

9. Kurt Busch Wonder if, after 38th- and 34th-place runs, Kurt is wishing he was still behind the wheel of the Miller Lite Dodge? After all, his scripted sponsor plugs worked better then. Kind of.

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior sits 10th here not because of his impressive performances, but because no one else has wrested it from him. And at this point, that wouldn’t be hard to do.

11. Mark Martin  Showing real signs of speed the last few weeks — and there’s still time to sneak into this Chase.

12. Tony Stewart  His cars aren’t handling right, he’s frustrated, Bristol is up next and he’s on the Chase bubble. NASCAR media beware!

13. Denny Hamlin  Sometimes you get the feeling Denny gets inside his own head.

14. Greg Biffle  At least he’s qualifying better these days ...

15. Clint Bowyer  Somehow still hanging in at 11th in the standings, which may speak to the competition down there.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr.
 

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Is Keselowski Brewing Up a Chase Run?

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Kyle Busch  Leads the series in top 5s (12) and is tied for the lead in wins (3) and top 10s (14). He also leads all drivers in best looking wife/girlfriend (and there’s some stiff competition there).

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<p> Kyle Busch still sits atop Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings, but a new threat is gaining ground fast.</p>

5. Brad Keselowski  Is this ranking too high for Keselowski? Maybe, but there’s no doubt the boy is delivering on his potential — busted ankle and all — and could make for a nice darkhorse title contender (and no, none of his product was consumed in the writing of this article).

6. Kevin Harvick  Scores his first top-10 finish at Watkins Glen since the July Daytona race. That said, he’s somehow pulled a Carl Edwards and stayed firmly entrenched in the top 5 in the standings. Doesn’t he just seem to disappear sometimes?

7. Kurt Busch  It’s hard to recall the last time a lapped car gave the leader the boot, but that’s what we saw out of Busch at the Glen. Let’s see — Kurt would now be wise to steer clear of Johnson and Allmendinger for a while.

8. Matt Kenseth  Random stat of the day: Matt Kenseth — not especially known for his road racing acumen — has six straight finishes between 12th and 14th on the roadies. I don’t know how to interpret that, but there it is.

9. Ryan Newman  The circuit returns to Michigan on Sunday, where Newman scored a sixth-place finish in June. Expect about the same out of a team that’s been trending upward in the season’s second half. And expect some sarcastic response to a reporter during his Friday media availability for good measure.

10. Tony Stewart  A solid top 5 at the Glen was spoiled late. The resulting 27th dropped him in the standings to the edge of the Chase cliff. That oughta put Tony in a real good mood in Michigan.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  A 15th at the Glen? Yeah, Junior will gladly take that and move on to the site of his last win.

12. Denny Hamlin  We’re all just glad Denny walked away from that one. It’ll be interesting to see what a new engine package does for his team moving forward.

13. Paul Menard  A blown tire late at the Glen ruined what was another pretty decent run for Menard. I’m sure if you asked him about it, he’d give you a very leveled and somewhat emotionless response.

14. Joey Logano  That road course training Joey got from Max Papis paid off to the tune of a fifth-place run. Man, this kid is still all over the board.

15. Greg Biffle  This may be premature, but Biffle could very well rocket up these ranking after he wins Michigan this weekend.

Just off the lead pack: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin

 

Agree with Matt’s rankings? Disagree? Post a comment below and tell him how you feel. You can also follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

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Horsepower Rankings

Pocono Rain Doesn't Dampen Spirited Finish

by Matt Taliaferro

1. Kyle Busch  For the second race in a row, Busch overcame issues that hindered his early-race gains to post a top-10 finish. The runner-up at Pocono finds him just 11 points out of the points lead.

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<p> Edwards is signed, Johnson is gearing up for his run and Gordon is, well, Gordon. But Kyle Busch is still the man to beat in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings.</p>

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